The Comparison Trap

Yesterday's Run:
Running in a winter wonderland...
3.06 miles in 40:00
Today's Workout:
Pure Barre Classic
Sometimes running makes my brain slow down and be still. Sometimes running pumps my brain full of the oxygen it was clearly missing and allows me to work through seemingly unsolvable problems. Sometimes running makes my brain speed up and think of a million things as once. And sometimes... sometimes running makes my brain turn on itself. Yesterday's running did that.
Six years ago today, I ran a full marathon. I often refer to this as my "first" marathon, though my "second" marathon is still yet to be determined. Possibly because finishing a full marathon was one of the hardest things I have ever done. 

Still happy to be running a marathon. This must have been before mile 16, when I started crying.
The actual race itself was brutal (I wrote an extensive recap of it and I am sure I complained about the heat at least 20 times). Weather conditions were awful and about two weeks before the actual race, even short training runs made me break down in tears. It wasn't until after the race that I learned that I had developed tendonitis in my hamstrings because of training. Training which could not have prepared me for running a full marathon in 90 degree weather with an injury. My goal time that I had trained for went out the window as soon as I set foot on the course.
But regardless of my finish time, for the past six years, I have considered finishing to be one of my crowning achievements. I still talk about finishing a full marathon. Hell, I still brag about finishing a full marathon. And while I don't see myself giving up those bragging rights, on yesterday's run, I found myself completely fixated on the fact that I had run a marathon... in the worst possible way.
To be clear, this might have been expected given how I prepared for yesterday's run. It was about 38 degrees outside and I haven't been running regularly in cold weather since before I moved back to Florida in 2012. Not only is that seven years ago, but it's also about 30 pounds ago. So when I started to get dressed, I pulled out my go-to running capris (the same ones that I ran the marathon in) and I couldn't breathe with them on. I reached for my old go-to running jacket and found that it didn't close by a good two inches. I put on a long sleeve running top that was so tight that I felt like a stuffed sausage about to pop. In the end, I ended up wearing shorts and compression socks and hoping I would stay warm. I also threw on an oversized runDisney staff jacket just to try to cover up the whole stuffed sausage situation.
The minute I walked outside, I felt self conscious. This was stupid for many reasons, not the least of which being that it was 38 degrees outside, so I saw maybe 6 other humans the entire run. But that feeling of yuck stuck with me. The reality of not fitting into the clothes that I ran a marathon in stuck with me. The knowledge that I was wearing a runDisney jacket for a slow three mile run when I used to wear runDisney stuff to complete challenges stuck with me. And before I knew it, my brain was comparing who I am as a runner now to who I was as a runner then. 
My inner dialogue was horrifying. I was making fun of myself for struggling to finish a 3 mile run - "How could you ever call yourself a marathoner if you can't even do this?! You're not a marathoner, you're just a fat girl who hobbled her way through 26 miles." I was saying things to myself that I would never say to another person, all because life happened and I gained some weight and I fell off the running bandwagon. But remember when I said that running sometimes makes my brain turn on itself? It kept turning. I fell into the dreaded comparison trap. I started comparing myself to everyone. I wasn't as strong a runner as I used to be, so I am a failure. I'm not as good at Weight Watchers as all those people on Instagram, so I am a failure. I'm not as thin as other Pure Barre instructors, so I am a failure. YIKES.
I think I spent the first two miles of my run in that trap. Just falling deeper and deeper into the black hole of feeling worthless. And then, as silly as it sounds, I thought of this.

Not to say that remembering this caused birds to chirp, the sun to shine, and all my thoughts to turn into rainbows. But remembering this did make me wonder how much of my own joy I have sacrificed in order to beat myself up over something. I told myself when I turned 30 that I would be done with the self loathing. And here I am, sneaking up on 32, and still letting it get to me.

So I reevaluated. And I reassessed. And I realized that I was being an idiot. I thought that when I went out for a run in shorts, people would stop and stare at me. You know what happened? My legs got cold. That's all that happened. No stopping, no staring. Just cold legs. We make tiny things into such a big deal in our heads, and we forget that they are just tiny things.

I wish I had the answer to avoiding the comparison trap. I wish I had the answer to blowing things out of proportion. But I guess all of this was just to say that we're all doing a damn fine job exactly where we are right now, and we ought to be proud.

That's all for now. Goodnight and be nice to each other out there.

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